Open Mike: The Other Tournament Mike Tufano June 5, 2014 Features, Open Mike With K-State sports all but wrapped up for the year, there isn’t much left to watch. I can’t even fall back on my Blackhawks anymore1. Most of you have moved on to your MLB team of choice, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re not keeping an eye on the NCAA Baseball Tournament, you’re missing out. I’ll admit it… I’m fairly new to the whole thing. I never paid much attention to it, until it got to Omaha. Never paid much attention to it, that is, until K-State started making appearances. Then I started watching, or listening before every game was on tv, to their games and learning what the tournament was all about. And last year, sitting in Tointon Family Stadium for every game of the Manhattan Regional, I was hooked on June Madness2. In case you haven’t followed the structure, that’s understandable. But take a peek at the bracket. It’s not as complicated as it looks. 64 teams break down into 16 sites of 4. Each group of 4 teams plays a double elimination tournament of non stop baseball for 3-4 days. That was last weekend. Each winner of that mini tournament goes on to the Super Regional. That best of 3 series in which we saw K-State come oh-so-close to knocking off Oregon State a year ago. I don’t have to tell you that the winner heads on to the College World Series in Omaha. At that point there are 8 teams, and the structure starts over. 2 pods of 4 teams in double elimination. Those two winners then play a best of 3 to determine the champion. And all of those games are in once place. I’ve never been, but I hear it’s magical. So why should we care? Last year’s Manhattan Regional wasn’t actually the first one I’ve ever attended. Back in 2005 I thought I’d check one out when it was withing driving distance. I went up to Lincoln and watch Nebraska, before they were traitors to history, cruise through their regional. I saw the Big 12 Player of the Year in action and it was clear what potential he had. When I returned the following weekend for the Super Regional I found out he’d just been selected by the Royals in the first year player draft. I also watched him help his team to the College World Series. Living in Salina at the time I would often head down to Wichita to watch Wranglers games, so the following year I started seeing Alex Gordon in games there as well. A year later, as any Royals fan can tell you, he’s been in KC ever since. That’s a big part of the excitement of these games. Sure, most of the guys in the games you’ll never see again. But some of them may be future gold glovers… and you may even see it coming. So the NCAA baseball tournament may not have the luster of the basketball one, but it’s pretty darn good on its own. You’ve got crazy upsets, like UC-Irvine knocking off Oregon State to advance, paving the way for Oklahoma State to have a legit shot at Omaha3. You’ve got Kennesaw State coming out of nowhere to make it to the Super Regional in their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. And you’ve got 4 Big 12 teams, all with a real chance of making it to Omaha, that will be hosting Super Regionals this weekend. It may not be must watch tv for the casual fans like March Madness, but trust me, it’s worth tuning in for. 8 teams will make it out of this weekend and take a shot at the finals in Omaha. And this year, I’ll be there for a couple of the College World Series games. I finally see what I’ve been missing.Notes: And yes, I’m bitterly typing this with the tv off instead of watching Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final [↩] Not a term anyone uses, so perhaps I should trademark it [↩] Why couldn’t that have happened a year ago?!!?! [↩] K-State fans, we salute you!